When the doors of The Clink Cymru are flung open on September 19, up to 96 diners at a time will enjoy meals prepared and served by category D inmates of HMP Cardiff and HMP Prescoed, all of whom are part of an initiative that aims to help rehabilitate prisoners through front-of-house and chef training.
What paying punters probably won’t realise is that the kitchen infrastructure powering the menu is testament to the generosity of the catering equipment industry and the foresight of the FCSI.
As The Clink operates as a charity, getting such an ambitious project off the ground would have been far more difficult had it not been for FCSI UK and Ireland members agreeing to donate more than £100,000 of kit.
Duncan Hepburn, founder of Gloucester-based Hepburn Associates, designed and project-managed the kitchen, liaising with more than 20 different brands.
“We came up with the design and then created a schedule of equipment which stated that we required some under-counter refrigeration, a dishwasher, a couple of combis, a cooking suite and other items of equipment,” explains Hepburn. “We went out to the market and the industry was very generous with their offers of equipment and contributions. Some people offered equipment at cost, others have completely donated items.”
Prior to that, however, Hepburn and The Clink’s chief executive, Chris Moore, carried out visits to the proposed location, which originally housed an off-site visitor centre.
One of the initial problems was establishing what room Hepburn had to play with given the lack of available scale drawings or plans of the facility. “The other issue was that because of the nature of the building there were quite a lot of sloping roofs and internal walls that we weren’t sure we could remove.”
Hepburn Associates came up with a series of initial concepts and after some structural changes were approved the development work kicked off.
“It was agreed that The Clink needed a bit more seating space so we added on a small extension to the rear of the property as another room for customers wanting somewhere separate, as well as some external seating for summer use.”
Given the need to maximise space, the kitchen is confined to quite a tight footprint on the site, with Hepburn having to design the lay-out around walls that couldn’t be relocated for structural reasons. It was able to open up one section for the main MKN cooking suite, however, which from the start was one of the principal focus areas of the design due to its size and location.
“The MKN suite has been cut around a column of the building that is in situ, so it is not a set suite. It had to come in two pieces so that we could fit it around the column. The cooking suite is a nice focal point of the kitchen,” comments Hepburn.
“Standex FSE has also got its new combination ovens in there, Gram and Williams both offered under-counter refrigeration for the project, and Halton Vent Master is in there with its canopies, so there is a nice mixture of technology. We are extremely grateful for everybody who has contributed equipment or their time to the project.”
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As well as looking after the design and specification, Hepburn also arranged for kit to be delivered on site for Cardiff-based distributor CKM to install.
“CKM dealt with the MKN suite that was installed and then we asked them if they would be prepared to take on the rest of it,” says Hepburn. “One or two of the manufacturers have installed their own pieces, but it’s mostly been CKM.”
The kitchen will now be operated by 30 prisoners from HMP Prescoed and HMP Cardiff, who will take on full-time positions within the restaurant under the guidance of a tutor chef and restaurant manager.
And, if everything goes to plan, they’ll be getting to grips with the sort of kit they’ll be using in commercial kitchens on the outside before too long.
“We approached FCSI members to help design and provide the equipment required for the kitchen and we received an unbelievable response. Their extensive help, support and generosity is invaluable in making this new venture possible, allowing us to extend our rehabilitation programme to another area of the UK.”
Chris Moore, Chief Executive, The Clink Charity
“The FCSI prides itself on giving back to the industry wherever possible and the work of The Clink Charity is truly inspiring. I’m delighted that our members have helped The Clink meet its equipment requirements and create a fully equipped professional kitchen within the new restaurant in Cardiff.”
David Bentley, Chairman, FCSI UK & Ireland
Equipment firms supplying kit to The Clink Cymru
Environmental Product Services
Linda Lewis Kitchens